Friday, November 02, 2007

The little monsters are beginning to twitch. Chief was livid this morning with the number of complaints she received about us. Did we ever get an earful. Most of the complaints were generally about how the kids got distracted with the things we were doing. Well, excuse us for breathing.

Someone (no, not me) got complained against for walking along the aisles, so today all he could do was to stand in the back of the venue and glower throughout his duty.

Kids, a word of advice: focus past your distractions and on your exam. Don't look at us as an excuse if your results don't turn out like you want. You have your job to do, so let us do ours.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

'bladed ECP in an attempt to jumpstart a long-neglected fitness regimen. Suddenly owning pairs of trousers and jeans that have become uncomfortably tight at the waist is motivation enough.

Completed only a part of my planned route before I turned back. I wasn't tired, just bone-weary. Now I know the difference.

Bone-weary is when you get emotionally afflicted with the idea that no matter what you do, no matter who you're with, you'll ultimately end up heavy-hearted, saggy-shouldered and all alone (kind'a like in this pix, only less pleasant).

Could have been a delayed response to Dee's question at brekkie this morning: do I feel my age in my body (though why she should be asking about my body is beyond me)?

Things felt stranger after I'd got my 'blades off and my trainers back on again. My legs, now gotten used to balancing on wheels, kept pushing me forward -- faster, faster -- but I was too out of breath to go with the impulse. The flesh being willing but the spirit is weak, I suppose.

Stopped for lunch, and felt much better for it. Lack of nutrition -- that'll do it to you everytime.
Despite all the warnings and dire predictions from various quarters, even en masse the kids I'm invigilating aren't the little monsters they've been made out to be. Maybe we're still new to each other?

Anyway, it was a day of feasting to celebrate the end of GP. A portion of our breakkie regulars started the pig-out at Friends. Friends offered a new dish on the set menu: an open ravioli with cream mushroom filling. What it turned out to be was two flat ravioli skins sandwiching something akin to the wild mushroom soup, only thicker and creamier. Fortunately, I didn't order the wild mushroom soup as my starter or I would have died from the overdose.

With roughly three hours in between to digest our substantial lunch, we rejoined the main body at the Red House, ECP, for a grand round of chilli crabs, drunken prawns and sides. Crab eating is never a pretty sight. Hands and the entire lower jaw area dripping with gravy as we're shoving large chunks of crab between molars and canines for a decent shell-cracking bite, mouths contorting to accommodate the welcome intrusion. No, no one got killed by my flying shrapnel this time. Pity.

Though B-lo abandoned us for better company -- she was looking to crash a happenin' Halloween party -- and Wayne abandoned us for soccer, the rest of us adjourned to Gelare in nearby Siglap. 2 Fantastic Fives, 9 spoons. Decadent orgy party of the night involving whipped cream, strawberries and chocolate sauce. B-lo and Wayne will never know what they missed...

Oh yeah, Happy Halloween, folks!

Late post as Mr L33t went inexplicably off-line last night.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An easy start to my exam duties. A 90 minute Japanese paper, 7 candidates only.

Though common wisdom says to treat these kids with caution (apparently, the kids of this particular college snap and turn nasty easily), my first impression of them has been quite different. True, they are well-groomed and look studious and intelligent like they should be, but they were respectful of Celine and me, and they did as they were instructed without rolling their eyeballs at us. I couldn't fault them for being obliviously ostentatious either despite what we've been told of them -- nothing they owned looked especially fabulous. Even their shoes were nothing out of the ordinary and looked like they'd been worn for quite a while already. I've seen kids wearing more expensive footwear on my own campus.

They are different from the kids we're used to in one way, though: they will ask questions to clear their doubts, and they assume nothing. In that alone, they make it clear that they are not sheep to be herded, bleating from one pen to the next. They are quietly and resolutely focused on the job they have to do and don't distract themselves with idle chitchat until they are formally dismissed.

Today I saw only 7 of them. Tomorrow, I'll probably see a lot more of them. Let's see if my initial impression of them still holds.

Tomorrow is also going to be historic. It'll be the first time ever we'll be offering the KI paper after years, yes, years, of preparation. NBS and I hope our 6 can deliver the goods (no pressure, KIds!), but tomorrow our blinkers will finally come off, and then we'll know for sure what a 'live' exam paper really looks like. Regardless, at this point, it's isn't how much you know any more, but rather how well you use what you do know to answer the question.

And on that note, GP and KI candidates taking tomorrow's paper, you've studied hard enough. The time to rest your eyes and brains is now. Go sleep... and all the best for your papers! May you have enjoyable questions to work on!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Officially, we're on vacation. The last day of the JC year was last Friday at which we staff had a round-up of the year seminar. Unofficially, as of today, we're still at work. J1s have their project exams, J2s have gone into full-swing exam mode, some are still looking for some 11th-hour assurances from us. We staff are on exam duty, supervising kids taking their papers. Still busy, busy.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I'm surprised Mr Devan would behave like the other PSLE parents when his kid returned a poor grade on his presumably GP essay. The school system is too rigid, he claims, in being dogmatic to the thesis-exposition-conclusion model of essay writing. He gives examples of great essayists whose works don't follow the pattern, Bacon and Orwell he quotes. The thesis-expo-conc model might work for boring old reports on Singapore's economy or a lab report, but doesn't reflect the writings of novelists and journalists, so why can't we be flexible about it [and give young Master Devan an 'A' for his effort, instead of a 'B' or whatever]?

Let's just dump all our illusions and ideals about Education. A GP essay is the most boring thing anyone will ever write. GP isn't creative writing which celebrates a free flow of thoughts and ideas that might eventually meander to some revelation. Or not, which is also ok. GP doesn't like the personal and the story-telling style either, so even if Orwell himself wrote lines like the ones Devan quotes, I would still write in the margins in glaring red: Narrative! Relevance?

We forget that GP, like any other subject, is a training regimen in a particular discipline. And the grades a student gets are merely reflective of the skill demonstrated by the student attained in that discipline. GP is a narrow discipline because it belongs in the realm of Pre-university, i.e., teaching kids to cope in the university environment at which they will be writing boring, stuffy academic reports about the Singapore economy, lab reports and probably worse. They'd better be prepared.

In GP we emphasize not so much clarity of thought, but rather clarity of communicating our thoughts. Socrates was brilliant, but if he didn't have the ability to articulate his most significant idea: "You're all idiots!" to us, his wisdom would have died with him millennia ago.

The thesis-expo-conc model is great for communicating ideas because there's no room for discontinuity, or for random, stray, left-field thoughts entering the argument and confusing the issue or the reader. It makes the essayist more careful in considering his purpose for writing, more aware of the audience's desire to access a simple idea and have some evaluative deliberation over it. It makes the essayist research the background of the issue and be personally responsible for what he says about it.

The essayist is a person of integrity, who has thought hard about the issue being discussed, has learned as much as he can about the issue, and proposes a course of action that is both practical and responsible to deal with it. This is the way leaders communicate with their people, and as potential uni-grads who are likely to hold decision-making positions in society in the near future, they'd better learn to write and speak like leaders or hell, they ain't gonna get no respect. No, sir!

If you don't like GP to be so inflexible and narrow, remember that this is a course in writing that caters to the lowest common denominator, same as every other subject in the formal curriculum. In our hands, we would have shattered the confidence of Bacon and Orwell, sending them in tears from the classroom time and again. They would have had stable jobs in the civil service, but they would never have written another essay as long as they lived, ever again. But if you want your genius kid* to flower, why not try homeschooling? Your kid could have taken the 'O' levels at the age of 9!

*Darn! Link for ST subscribers only!
Rediscovering Ya Hua Rou Gu Cha -- a long-lost treasure -- was June's biggest thrill from yesterday's reef walk. Back when she was working for Compaq, this was THE place to celebrate Department events and special occasions. But when Ya Hua moved from Outram, they fell off the radar... until last night. As the bus took us back to campus, there it appeared, right outside PSA's Tanjong Pagar Gate 1, with a basement parking lot conveniently located right there.

So today, we went to see if it was as good as she remembered. The rou gu cha here is of the peppery variety. It's claim to fame is that with the same soup base, they make complementary (meaning "goes well with", NOT "free, gratis") side dishes of Chinese lettuce, Japanese seaweed (yums!), pork liver (excellent!) which we ordered (left). The different soups take on the flavour of their main ingredients so there's a multiplicity of variations on the basic rou gu cha theme in one meal.

Was it good? Yes. The top pix shows the pre-lunchtime crowd on a Sunday in the business district. Hint: go early if you want to get a table.

Edit 01:
This is the second time Mr George Lim Heng Chye has got my goat with another inane, petty and ridiculous letter to the ST's forum pages:

Man exposed himself to boys
October 28, 2007 Sunday

ON OCT20, I took my young son to the Ang Mo Kio Swimming Complex for his swimming lessons.

After his session, I accompanied him to the shower room. There, I noticed a man standing naked, drying his hair with a towel while displaying his full frontal view towards two young boys, who were in the midst of changing.

What was offensive was that the man was in a state of physical arousal. He was standing close and exposing himself to the boys, who fortunately ignored him.

When my son got out of the shower, I told him to change quickly and we left the room.

That man was still 'drying' his hair with a towel when we left. It did not look like he had any intention to get dressed.

What I saw was a pervert who was looking for an opportunity to satisfy his lust in the men's changing room by preying on young boys. It was a detestable act.

I urge the Singapore Sports Council to send patrols or marshals to stop such perverts from deliberately parading naked in the changing rooms at swimming complexes.

Hellooo... you saw a MAN naked in a MEN's shower room. Newsflash: people shower with their clothes off, most of the time. Ok, the dude was towelling dry his hair, but unless he had brought an extra towel with him (most of us won't bother), what else was he going to cover himself with? His dry BVDs?

Oh, and you thought the man was in "a state of physical arousal"? Men are born with differently sized um... physical equipment. Just because his might have been bigger than [what you're used to seeing] doesn't mean he was particularly excited by what your genetic offspring or you had to offer. Alternatively, he could have just towelled dry his own nether regions, and the stimulation might have inadvertently caused some "arousal". Has it been that long for you?

In fact, by taking note of the man's endowments, you were probably violating his privacy and he could sue you for it. The two young boys he was allegedly "exposing" himself to were probably his own sons who had the sense to ignore their dad going about his business. I think they'll turn out ok, but I worry about yours.

Just curious. Did you ever serve NS, or were you excused bathing for some medical condition or other?

You should stay away from the Women's shower room. With your constitution, you'll risk an ambulance ride to the nearest hospital if you ever saw what goes on in there. Naked women showering. The horror!
Staff field trip to Kusu Island! About 30 of us, some with spouses and/or kids in tow descended upon the tidal pools on the island to view the different lifeforms observable at low tide. Guides from Blue Water Volunteers showed us around, this being the last trip to the island they are organizing for the year.

When a place has generally few human visitors, it's amazing how much life flourishes. Today, however, we arrived; and though we were careful to gingerly step around inhabited patches of the reef, I'm sure some lifeforms came to grief under the soles of our feet. But we really did try to minimize our impact on the ecosystem as far as possible.

As we waded through the salt-water pools, we encountered crabs of the hermit and flower varieties, and one of the other guides put one small, hairy specimen in temporary captivity so that most of us could see it first-hand. What other things did we see? Check out the rest of June's pix here.

Our guides, Dionne and Yvonne, were entertaining and lively, and took our nonsense in their stride. They were informative and encouraged us to get hands-on with some of the creatures. We felt the suction of the carpet anemone's stinging tentacles (our skin is too thick to be affected by the stings) , and had snails and small crabs crawling over our palms just for the experience.

There was time for a quick self-prepared dinner after, while awaiting the ferry's departure. With the budget we gave her, Mel put together a small feast of egg mayo and chix mayo to spread on bread. Various people opened bags of chips, while Linc opened a bottle of cab sauv to share around.

Definitely not the worst way to spend a Saturday afternoon. =)